Saturday, March 31, 2007
In it for the long run - The Guardian March 31, 2007
Last updated at 12:39 AM on 31/03/07
In it for the long run
Dairy Queen/Source for Sports Bunny Hop 10 K race in Charlottetown has been hop, hop, bopping along for 30 years as an annual introduction to spring.
Co-race directors Ellen Sherren, left, and Tara Costello-Ledwell and longtime Dairy Queen manager Al Stewart show two treats that have been stalwart staples for the Dairy Queen/Source for Sports Bunny Hop for the past 30 years. A complimentary long-sleeved T-shirt and tasty sundae always top off this annual Easter Saturday event. Guardian photo by Mary MacKay
Some see signs of spring in the arrival of daffodils, the return of robins or the first green blade of grass.
But chances are if you're a runner in this province, the first true symbol that winter has finally been kicked to the back of the boot closet is when the annual Dairy Queen/Source for Sports Bunny Hop run comes hop, hop, bopping along.
For the past 30 years, this P.E.I. Road Runners Club 10-km race in Charlottetown on Easter Saturday has been a sneaker-donning staple for runners of all ages.
“This is a real rite of spring, you know?” says Tara Costello-Ledwell, volunteer co-race director for the 2007 bunny hop, which gets underway at the Dairy Queen on University Avenue at 10 a.m. on April 7.
“It’s always a really great feeling the morning of the race, ‘OK, spring is here!’ ”
“It’s an Easter tradition in Charlottetown in the running community, for sure,” adds fellow co-race director Ellen Sherren, who expects this year’s race turnout will top 200 for this fund- and awareness-raising project for the Kidney Foundation of P.E.I.
The bunny hop and the P.E.I. Road Runners Club’s creation coincided three decades ago.
The idea of forming a road- running club on P.E.I. originated during a Moncton to Charlottetown run in June 1977, says Parker Lund of Dartmouth, N.S. who was on this fundraising run.
The chit-chat that ensued during the multi-day run prompted talk of forming a running club, the main purpose of which would be to promote fitness and participation through jogging and running. The club’s first meeting was on Sept. 27, 1977.
The running community was still in its infancy on P.E.I. at the time.
“You were almost a freak if you were a runner, there were so few,” jokes Lund, who was the club’s first president.
It was the tight-knit community that provided the incentive to get out and run.
“I think one of the things that was good about it is we ran every day,” remembers avid runner Ewen Stewart.
“And on a dirty day, everybody would get out because they’d say, ‘Oh so and so is out so I’d better get out and keep him company.’ ”
The first projects undertaken by the club were fun runs, social runs and a newsletter. One of the runs was a loosely formatted Dairy Queen-sponsored race in 1977. For that race, runners followed a plotted six-and-a-half mile course that was changed in later years to avoid traffic issues.
“We all knew each other. Some of the faster guys were real fast and some of us were real slow, but at the end we all just had fun,” says Al Stewart, manager of the Charlottetown Dairy Queen for 40 years who was also a runner at the time.
“Every year we got more runners so it didn’t take long to catch on.”
Stewart says no records were kept from the inaugural run in 1977, but the first formal trophy run for the bunny hop was in 1978. It attracted 32 male entrants in four age categories. The winner that year was Gary Andrus.
The first female bunny hop winner was Sherry McKenna in 1979.
When Pam Power McKenna returned from Alberta in the mid-1980s, the bunny hop was one of the first ready-set-go stops on the list for this avid runner.
“Even in the ’80s, we had very few women runners, like there’d be five of us maybe in many of the runs, and then when it got to 10 that was big,” she remembers. “And now we get more women than men. Percentage wise it’s probably about 51 per cent. So it’s really getting big.”
Power McKenna’s first bunny hop win in her division was in 1989. She went on to place first seven more times, the most recent of which was in 2003, putting her in the bunny hop record books as the most prolific winner.
“(The bunny hop) is the first of the year, it gets you motivated for the summer and it’s become a lot of fun and a community thing. (It’s) something to talk about; ‘are you going to the bunny hop?” that sort of thing,” she says.
Of the P.E.I. Road Runners Club’s offering of almost 30 races, the bunny hop is probably the most popular.
“It is certainly the largest,” says Sherren. “And it’s a 10-km distance, which is the most popular distance in the race listing, and it’s the first competitive race of the season . . . . And a lot of people have been training all winter, they want to get outside.”
The excitement of bunny hop race day is difficult to describe, Costello-Ledwell says.
“I really think that these kind of community runs and community events are a great way to promote the active living side of things,” she adds.
“It’s wonderful to see people coming together and the camaraderie. There’s a lot of fun and people seem to really enjoy the race. Thirty years is a long time.”
At A Glance
• What: The P.E.I. Road Runners Club’s 30th annual Dairy Queen/Source for Sports Bunny Hop 10 K Race.
• When: Saturday, April 7.
• Starting Time: 9 a.m.
• Registration: 7:45-8:55 a.m. at the Dairy Queen, University Avenue, Charlottetown.
• For more information, contact Tara Costello-Ledwell, 566-1602, 566-9679, firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Ellen Sherren, 626-5980, email@example.com.
• There will be plenty of prizes, including those awarded to the person with the oldest, rattiest bunny hop T-shirt and the person with the most bunny hop T-shirts from years gone by.
• Records to beat: The female course record is 38:01, which was set in 1990 by Myra Fraser. Curtis DesRoches owns the male course record - 32:28 - which he set in 2002.